Sunday, June 5, 2016

Hook In And Hang On

Our extra day in the familiar Ensenada Honda anchorage on Culebra was just what we needed.  While our friends frolicked on Culebrita without us, we did some housekeeping and regrouped.  We aren't used to the fast pace that chartering requires, so perhaps it was the better choice for us to hang back after all.

The next day La Vie Dansante returned to our side and Bruce and I resumed following our friends around.

Our first stop was for lunch at The Dinghy Dock Restaurant.  This popular spot has good food and even better entertainment!

We watched, mesmerized as the gulls and huge Frigate Birds hovered and dove to delicately pick scraps from the fingers of the restaurant staff.

I was amazed that we could get close enough to reach out and touch these giant birds... but we didn't try it!

How cool it must be to grow up in such a place where feeding Frigates is commonplace.

Looking out from the tiny old US Post Office
After a leisurely lunch we split up and ran around doing some errands... mailed some post cards, filled some jerry jugs with fuel...
We met back up at this small dinghy-up bar.

The guys dinghied over from the gas station to meet us.

The Milka's Grocery

Next on the agenda was topping off provisions for the last half of the charter week...

There are two grocery stores here but this one seems to have the best selection.  Not much to look at from the outside though...
It's bigger than it looks from outside

Sharing Cruiser Life with our friends!
Kids swinging into the water from the bridge.

I swung the rope to this boy...

And barely caught him going into the water!

Lead on!
Once all the business was done we moved the boats to the reef at the entrance to Ensenada Honda.


These mooring balls were a first for us and they really are pretty nice.

Although the winds blow unhindered here, the reef keeps the water nice and flat.  Temperatures overnight are quite cool for sleeping and there are no bugs!

Our anchorage with Fulladosa Bay up and to the left.
We settled in and dinghied around the point and into Ensenada Fulladosa where we found the tiny dilapidated dock owned by Club Seabourne Hotel and Restaurant.

Bruce and Brenda... BFFs Forever!

Club Seabourne's Dock

I know... What a grandiose name for such a tiny place.  But as we docked our dinghies and crossed the street to the property, we were pleased with what we saw.

The resort was well maintained and very tropical.  We were seated on a large back porch overlooking the garden and proceeded with happy hour!

The prices were very reasonable with half portions offered for half the price.  All of the food we ordered was superb and the presentation was 5 Star!

Bruce and I had invited our Cruiser Friends from Orion and they fit right in with our bunch.  The sound of laughter ringing through the night attested to the fact that everyone at that table had a marvelous time!    What an awesome dinner it was! We should get off the boat at night more often...

We were still laughing as we made our way in the dark back to our respective boats...

The following morning we prepared for an early departure under a Sahara Dust haze.  The winds were promised to moderate somewhat today and Bruce and I were ready to head out with confidence.

Leaving the protection of the reef
Our destination?  Vieques.  We hoped to take advantage of the calmer morning winds as our route would take us across open water with no protection from the waves.

Our comfort-ometer
Once we settled on our course, conditions were not bad at all.  We took the waves on our port forward quarter.  Once again we were thankful for the size and weight of our boat for even though the size of the waves increased as the miles slid beneath us, we were able to ride in relative comfort.

La Vie Dansante moved much faster than we did and soon they disappeared around the eastern tip of Vieques.

We were having trouble reaching them on the VHF but no worries.... We knew where they were going and we were enjoying the sail.

Can you tell that this is a very large swell???
As we rounded Vieques and fell off the wind there was a stretch of really crazy waves.  I thought once we turned more downwind things would smooth out a bit... but I was wrong! For a while there, it was almost all I could do to keep the boat under control and not toss my crew and worldly goods around everywhere...

But thankfully as we continued on down the southern coast of Vieques, things did get better.  We could see La Vie Dansante up ahead and we were gaining on them.

And then they changed course...  A call on the radio told us that they were diverting to Bahia de la Chiva to do some snorkeling.

By the time we got there, our friends were already in the water and had been for some time.  The waves were wrapping around Isla Chiva causing quite a roll.  We decided to stay onboard and have a nice relaxing lunch instead of rushing to get in a quick swim before time to move out again.  Conditions weren't optimal and we have time to return when things are better...  We were tired.  This break-neck pace was giving us stress!  Making us feel OLD!!!

Knowing that La Vie Dansante would cover the short distance remaining to Esperanza much faster than we could... we decided to head on out.  We sailed off our anchor and hugged the coast, keeping an eye on our competition friends as they were soon to follow.

THIS is what we miss the most...
They went much further out from the island than we did and we wondered what was up.  We reminded ourselves that they were having the time of their lives and that this is not something they've ever done before... maybe they just want to prolong the sail.


It looked like they were going to sail off into the sunset when finally they gybed and came back in.  We beat them to the mooring balls, taking our assigned #2.  We watched them as they took the next one over and soon we were doing what we all love best... Floating in the water dangling from a line with beverages in our hands.

This was it.  THIS was the reason Bruce and I stayed behind to wait for our friends.  Our fondest memories of home are of weekend cruises spent dangling from a floating line with these people... and once again we felt... re-connected.

Looks relaxing doesn't it?  It is... We watched our Cruiser Friends on Odin come in from St. Croix and take the ball on our other side.  I was eager to talk to them but we were not in charge of the Plan.  As the sun began to drop, we dragged our wrinkled bodies from the water and got gussied up for dinner ashore.

This is the first time Bruce and I have been to Esperanza.  There is plenty of space to anchor here but word has it that the holding is poor.

A guy came out to greet us and to let us know that this town has a bad reputation for dinghy (and anything else) theft and that if we were going ashore, to make sure we secured our dinghy and motor... and not to stay ashore too late.  What a shame that is... Because this little town is so cute.  We would love to spend more time here.

Just before we left the boat, a second guy came by, this time to collect the mooring fee.  He reiterated the previous warnings that it wasn't safe to leave things unsecured here.  Sad.

Sleepy little beach town on the surface... menace beneath.
So we took extra care to securely lock everything on the boats before dinghying to the town dock... then again, locking things up tight there as well.  I will admit that Bruce and I have not felt unsafe in any of the other anchorages we've visited thus far.  But this double warning about this place gave us an uneasy feeling.  We were sad that this was what our friends had to experience during their short stay in the islands... instead of the full experience of welcome and safety that we have experienced here.  Shame on you Esperanza!!!

But then... I guess everyone feels "safe"... until they don't.

Tourist shop... no tourists.
We walked the streets and took it all in.  So many people just LOVE Vieques.  This was only our second stop on the island so we had no idea what to expect.

Things were pretty quiet all around.  We wondered where all the tourists were...

Maybe it's still early...  We looked at a few menus at the restaurants lining the main drag.. then we chose Duffy's.  It had come highly recommended from several sources.

We settled there and were a little put off by our waitress.  At first it seemed that she was just "on island time".  But as the evening progressed we were all convinced that she was just a terrible waitress.

Furthermore... the food was hastily thrown together and there was no care taken to make it special in any way.  I could have done much better and the cost was far more than the dinner was worth.  Why Duffy's was recommended to us in the first place is a mystery and we won't make the  mistake of recommending it to anyone else.  Normally I try to "leave a clean electronic wake" which means that I don't say bad things about a place that might cost them business... but Duffy's... make it or break it.  This town needs a better effort if they are going to make it.

A rare capture of Bill and Jan
We left Duffy's and took a stroll along the malecon.  It's beautiful here. .. Surprisingly after all of the warnings.

Dos Libras and Odin
We had some time to kill before our next event.  No... it isn't over yet.  Remember this group is packing in all the experiences they can... who needs sleep???

There was some confusion about where we were to meet up with the bus that would take us to our tour of Puerto Mosquito Bioluminescent Bay

I'm not sure who was in charge of the Plan... but we took off walking up the road in search of this bus.

There was much dissent amongst the group, finally resulting in a hostile takeover.  Personally... I was glad for the exercise, but this group wasn't having it...No way could we be on the right road... we've walked for miles (exaggeration) and this could NOT be it!

We turned back toward the town and before long... a bus came by on their way to the REAL meeting place.  We had actually been walking to the address where the tour bus lived... and not the tour stop.

The bus stopped and picked us up... apparently we weren't the first group to be confused...  They drove us back to the town center... to a spot about half a block in the opposite direction from where we began our trek...
Somebody is not happy...
They dumped us off where we waited for nightfall and the rest of the people to show up.

There are no pictures of the tour.  When darkness fell, those of us who had not been completely eaten alive by mosquitos boarded the rickety bus to be bounced and jostled along to the Bio Bay landing.  

I'm sure there must be some warning about how those who are pregnant or suffer from back problems should not participate in this tour... but I missed it.  

The night was stifling and between my fatigue, the lack of fresh air, and the indescribable smell of old bus/unwashed bodies/and cigarette-smoke-breath... I was almost feinting by the time we reached the tour landing.  

I staggered off of the bus and gulped in the fresh night air.  It was full of the scent of flowers and other plants, mixed with the salt air of the Sea.  I was revived and once again joined the land of the living.  

We listened to our tour guide as he instructed us to follow the sidewalk marked in glow-rocks.  Walking down that glowing pathway seemed magical and I was hopeful that this night would turn out great after it's inauspicious beginning.

We reached the pond and boarded our pontoon boat.  The boat left the landing... we all had to move to the waterside to allow the land side to float off the mud... OK...  Then we spread back out and took our seats as the jets propelled the boat quietly into the pond.  

I realized that the jets were not lit by underwater lights... but were the millions of tiny organisms lighting up the water where the jets disturbed them.  That was fascinating to watch for a while...  

The tour progressed with stops here and there and an informative talk given by our guide.  They brought buckets of water onboard for us to splash around in with our hands.  This caused the water in the bucket to glow.  Cool.  

They allowed people to descend the boarding ladder and kick the water around.  We could all see the glow... also cool.  But by this time I realized that once again, our own life experiences far outweighed this "packaged tour" and I became irritated that we had spend $100 for tickets to see something that we can see ourselves for free... from the privacy and intimacy of our own boat.  

But... we got to experience this with our friends so there's that...  We will come back here perhaps when the winds are more calm so that we can anchor just outside of this Bio-Bay and dinghy in on our own.  Maybe I'm just tired from all of this stuff being packed into such a short time... Maybe I'm just a cheapskate.   Or maybe we are just "experience snobs" and have had such amazing times with nature's wonders on our own for free... far from crowds of people... that the entertainment bar has been raised for us.  Of course, not wishing to dampen the experience for our friends... we said nothing of this...

Bruce checking the anchor
With heavy hearts we dropped our mooring the following morning and sailed off to our final destination with La Vie Dansante.  Somehow I always let the last hours of any vacation be colored with melancholy, already anticipating the sadness I would feel when it's over.  We had looked forward to this time for weeks and it was almost done...

La Vie Dansante had once again smoked us and were already anchored and suiting up for snorkeling when we arrived.

They took off while we were settling and when we were ready to go we couldn't find them.  Perhaps they had rounded the point of the island?

We dinghied over there with sundowners in our hands and walked the secluded beach.

Our friends were nowhere to be found but we took this time to just enjoy the solitude in our reflective state....Very soon we would be alone again.

Buddy boats for a while
Very "South Pacivicy"
We were driven from the beach by the no-see-ums.  Taking to the water again, we ran along the beach and soon found the snorkelers.  Of course they were wrapping it up so Bruce and I just floated and enjoyed our drinks as we watched the action.

Found 'em!
They would leave in the morning, but we would remain here for some days waiting for weather to move on... we will snorkel then.

Bill and Jan

Mark and Brenda
We were invited aboard La Vie Dansante again for one more dinner...We enjoyed one more sundown and we talked like only old friends can.

The next morning came way too soon.  We dinghied over once again, wanting to spend every available moment and postpone the inevitable goodbyes.  But eventually they came.  The charter boat had to be turned in by noon and they still had a couple of hours travel back to Fajardo.

Good-Bye... GOOD BYE!!!
Bruce and I went back to Dos Libras and watched them pull up the anchor and motor out of sight...


They're gone.

We spent the rest of the day doing nothing really...  Our mood was somber.  We talked about it.  It was SO good seeing our friends but it was almost not worth it for the missing them now... We consciously took the day to do nothing but readjust to our slow lifestyle after the whirl-wind of the past week.

Cruising is very good.  If only our loved ones could join us permanently it would be perfect.

We so look forward to their visits like things would be "the same"...

But they aren't.  They haven't changed... WE have.  We are no longer engaged in that life that goes on back "home".  We don't watch the news... we aren't a prisoner to time... weather is our king.  In so many small ways we feel the chasm between our friends.  I'm sure they never even noticed... but we did.

With heavy sighs we turned our minds back to our tiny world...

Still trying to get inside.. see the tail of the towel sticking out of the boom?
A pair of birds had tried to take up residence inside our mast upon arrival yesterday.  We stuffed a towel inside so that they couldn't nest there and ever since they have been chirping and searching our boat for alternate facilities...

By the end of the day our spirits were revived somewhat.  We shook it off and began to look forward once again to OUR life now that we had it back to ourselves...  We have several weather days to wait out before we can continue on... to where?

Planning, watching weather, exploring the beaches and the nearby reef... all in quiet seclusion... This pace is more slow.  And we like it.

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